20 Oct 2017


Two-thirds of the world’s population live in conditions of serious water scarcity for at least one month of the year. And yet, a person drinks on average two litres of water a day, and without realising it, we all use up to 5,000 litres of ‘virtual’ water per day in the food we eat. It is time to think again about our food systems. These are the key issues tackled in the third edition of the Food Sustainability Report, a quarterly summary document, developed by the BCFN and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy, which helps to put the pressing global issues regarding food and sustainability in the spotlight. Read the Food Sustainability Report, visit: www.foodsustainabilityreport.org

The issues of migration and water scarcity are inextricably linked, and this should focus our minds on trying to identify practical solutions. “The world is witnessing some of the largest refugee flows since the Second World War. Meanwhile, water crises are highlighted as one of the most pressing global challenges. In this context, migration and refugee flows are increasingly explained in terms of water scarcity – perpetuated by climate change”, explains the Working Paper 27 “Water, migration and how they are interlinked”, published by the Stockholm International Water Institute, SIWI. Moreover, a recent study (“Four billion people facing severe water scarcity”)  highlights that: “two-thirds of the global population (4 billion people) live under conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month of the year. Nearly half of those people live in India and China. Half a billion people in the world face severe water scarcity all year round”. Such statistics underline how this lack of water could aggravate migration flows yet further. However, in this context of water scarcity, there is a paradox which becomes undeniably clear: a person drinks on average 2 litres of water a day and, although we may not be aware of it, we use up to 5,000 litres of ‘virtual’ water a day just in the food we eat. Consequently, when looking for solutions to this problem, we must not overlook our eating habits. After all, the way we produce the food we put on our plates also has a major impact on the environment and water use.

This is a summary of some of the issues discussed in the third Food Sustainability Report, the tool developed by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy, designed to promote and spread information about these complex food-related issues to raise awareness among governments, institutions and the general public about the urgent need to act to make the global food system truly sustainable. It is a tool to help stakeholders navigate through the huge amounts of information available on English-language websites regarding food and its social, economic and environmental impacts. The third edition of the Food Sustainability Report (July-September 2017) discusses drought and floods, and the idea that the food we eat could offer a possible solution to climate change which is aggravating these crises.

Marta Antonelli, Research Programme Manager of the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation, explained that “rather than the industrial or domestic sectors, it is the agricultural sector which uses the most water . On average, 70% of the total amount of fresh water is used for irrigation, while industry consumes 22% and the remaining 8% goes towards domestic use. Antonelli argues that “the impact of agriculture is even greater in some low and middle-income countries, where consumption can reach 95% of the total and is beset by inefficiencies. On a global level, there are around 1.4 billion km3 of water, but only 0.001% of the total is actually available for human use, and this highlights just how important it is to use this resource correctly. According to current trends, in 2050, we will need 60% - 70% more food. More food means more water to produce it, even in countries whose surface and underground fresh water resources are already dwindling. This is why we all need to do our bit, and we can make a significant contribution by thinking carefully about what we put on our plate each day”.

Today, the global water footprint, or the total amount of water used during the various stages of goods production , amounts to 7,452 billion m3 of fresh water per year, equal to 1,243m3 per person, or more than twice the average discharge of the Mississippi river. Although, on one hand, we are paying increasing attention to our everyday actions, like turning off the tap while we brush our teeth; on the other hand, we are still largely unaware of how much “invisible” water is hidden in the food we eat. 


Once again, the BCFN Forum (on December 4 and 5 at the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca in Milan) returns for its 8th edition, to debate all the key themes related to food and find solutions to the major paradoxes in our food system. From Bob Geldof, activist in the fight against world hunger, to Gunter Pauli, one of the founding fathers of the circular economy, and Jeffrey Sachs, writer and economist who inspired Pope Francis, there will be a huge number of experts and opinion makers taking to the stage during the event. These will also include Guido Barilla and Carlin Petrini who will debate the role of food in the protection of biodiversity and sustainable development. The Forum will cement its place as a major interdisciplinary event and the only one of its kind in Italy, focusing on sharing findings, scientific data and best practices for achieving the SDGs of the UN’s Agenda 2030 and for building food systems which benefit people’s health and the wellbeing of the planet. There will be many new features in this year’s edition, including: the partnership between the BCFN and MacroGeo, which will produce a study looking at the links between migration and food; the presentation of the new Food Sustainability Index, which shows where food really is “good”, developed by the BCFN and The Economist Intelligence Unit; and a new edition of the Food Sustainability Media Award, a prize for journalists organised in collaboration with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Elena Cadel, Media Relations, mediarelations@barillacfn.com , +39 340 2946263


Simone Silvi - Senior Account Media Relations, BCFN Foundation – s.silvi@inc-comunicazione.it - Direct: +39 335.10.97.27

Mariagrazia Martorana - Media Relations Consultant, BCFN Foundation - m.martorana@inc-comunicazione.it - Direct: +39 333.57.61.268

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN Foundation) is a think tank created in 2009 in order to analyse the key issues connected to food and nutrition around the world. By adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, economic, scientific, social and environmental factors are studied in terms of their effects on the food system. The President and Vice President of the BCFN Foundation are Guido and Paolo Barilla, while the board of directors is made up of, among others, Carlo Petrini, the President of Slow Food and Paolo De Castro, who chairs the committee on agriculture and rural development at the European Parliament. The Advisory Board oversees the work of the BCFN Foundation. For more information: www.barillacfn.com; www.protocollodimilano.it 

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